11 amendments on Tuesday’s ballot
by Daniel Gaddy
Nov 04, 2012 | 3907 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eleven amendments to Alabama’s Constitution will be on Tuesday’s ballot. The issues range from removing outdated language about telegraph companies to proposals about the state’s Forever Wild program, legislators’ pay and cutting racist language from the document.

Tuesday’s ballot will also allow Alabama voters to weigh-in on Obamacare, secret ballots for union representation and a proposal to adjust a $750 million line of credit to attract industry to the state.

Three of the amendments — Amendments 3, 5 and 11 — only affect single municipalities. Statewide votes on such issues occur when the area’s lawmakers don’t unanimously support the measure.

The following is a summary of each amendment on Tuesday’s ballot:

Amendment 1 - Forever Wild

A “yes” vote would reauthorize the Forever Wild program for a 20-year period. The state's land preservation program takes 10 percent of the earnings from the Alabama Oil and Gas Trust Fund (with a $15 million annual cap) to preserve land with ecological or recreational value.

Since it was established in 1992, the program has received $193 million and preserved 231,000 acres.

The amendment has received a wide range of support, including environmentalist groups, the National Rifle Association and the Business Council of Alabama.

A few groups, however, say the money could be better spent attracting jobs. Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Woodville), for example, said he would like to see the money go to career tech.

Amendment 2 - Economic Development Bonds

A “yes” vote for this measure would restate the terms of an existing $750 million cap on bonds issued for economic development. According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the measure will allow the state to refinance the line of credit — taking advantage of lower interest rates — and issue new debt as old debt is retired.

"The effect of the proposal is both to correct an error in the original amendments and to expand the state's ability to issue debt for economic development,"  the council states in an online summary.

Gov. Robert Bentley has frequently urged passage of the proposal, which he said could create $160 million to attract industry to the state.

Officials with the Alabama Education Association also support this amendment because it will decrease pressure to raid the Education Trust Fund for economic development money.

Amendment 3 - Local issue for Baldwin County

A “yes” vote will designate the Stockton community of Baldwin County a Landmark District and prevents the Legislature from passing a local act that annexes any property in the district into an existing municipality.

Amendment 4 - Racist Language / Right to Education

Voting “yes” on Amendment 4 would remove language concerning the segregation of schools and language concerning poll taxes from Alabama's Constitution. Some groups have expressed concern that the amendment keeps language saying that there is no constitutional right to education.

Members of the AEA say they fear it could take funding away from public schools and put them toward vouchers or charter schools.

An article in the AEA's publication, the Alabama School Journal, points out that no African American lawmakers voted for the measure when it came up for a vote in the Statehouse.

An article posted on the conservative-leaning Alabama Policy Institute's website says the issue about the state's Constitution and a right to education were dismissed by the Alabama Supreme Court in 2002.

"Politicians and special interest groups frequently let technical arguments suspend their ability to discern between right and wrong," the article states. "Regardless of the amendment opposition’s faulty reasoning or even the positive desire of many Alabamians to improve the state’s reputation, removing the racist language of Alabama’s Constitution is clearly the right thing to do."

Amendment 5 - Local Issue for Prichard Sewer Transfer

A “yes” vote would transfer the assets and liabilities of the Water Works and Sewer Board of Prichard to the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System.

Amendment 6 - Obamacare

Voting “yes” on Amendment 6 would place language in the Alabama Constitution opposing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It's unclear what the amendment's passage will mean to residents. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to opt-out of the expansion of Medicaid called for in the ACA. However, it ruled as constitutional the Individual Mandate requiring all citizens to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty. And conflicts between state and federal laws are usually resolved in favor of the federal government under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Mark Kennedy, head of the Alabama Democratic Party, called the amendment "just another superfluous addition to our constitution.”

Amendment 7 - Secret Ballots

A “yes” vote would create a secret ballot system for the election of employee representation. Currently, workers must perform what's called a card check. In this system, more than half the employees must sign a card saying they want to be represented by a union. A summary by the Alabama Policy Institute states, "Amendment 7 is designed to protect Alabamians from threat or coercion when deciding how to best represent their interests."

But many Democrats and officials with the AFL-CIO say the proposal would open the door for workers wanting to unionize to be threatened and harassed by their bosses.

Amendment 8 - Legislators' Pay

A “yes” vote would repeal current standards for legislator compensation and tie lawmakers' salaries to median household income in Alabama. It will also require lawmakers to be reimbursed for expenses in the same manner as state employees, by submitting signed vouchers for expenses.

Currently, state lawmakers receive a list of reimbursements that include $10 a day for the 105-day legislative session, a $50 per diem for 45 days and a monthly expense allowance of $4,174. Estimates of an average legislator's annual compensation vary from $50,000 to $52,000. The median household income for Alabama was $40,474 in 2010.

Amendment 9 - Corporate Language

Voting “yes” on Amendment 9 would remove outdated language about the taxation of charitable corporation shares because these shares no longer exist. According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, it would also remove language concerning telegraph and telephone company consolidation, which is now regulated by the federal government. It also removes language so that non-domestic and foreign corporations are treated equally under the law when amending filings.

Amendment 10 - Language for Lenders

Voting “yes” on Amendment 10 will remove language so that non-residential mortgage lenders are treated equally under the law. It also removes and consolidates language from seven of the nine sections of Article XIII making it easier to understand.

Amendment 11 - Local Issue for Lawrence County jurisdiction

A “yes” vote will prevent any municipality outside of Lawrence County from imposing its ordinances or regulations. According to the Public Affairs Research Council, it also prohibits a municipality from providing police or fire protections services in its police jurisdiction located in Lawrence County, other than mutual aid.